Prospects Of Re-Building.

“Shingwauk–an announcement!” Such was the heading of a communication which appeared in the correspondence columns of the “Church Herald” in the Spring of 1874, between four and five months after our fire,–and it ran thus: “A little more than four months ago the Shingwauk Industrial Home at Garden River was burnt to the ground, and not a vestige of it left. An appeal was then made to Church people of Canada, England, and Ireland to assist in re-building it, and the sum required being L2000; the building to comprise an Industrial School for boys and girls, and principals residence. I am happy to announce that this sum is, so far as I can ascertain, almost, if not already, secured. From the Canadian Church, 1410 dols.; from Government, 1000 dols.; and the balance from the Old Country. I mention this in no spirit of boastfulness, but in humble gratitude to God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, that the Holy Spirit hath thus inclined the hearts of His people to give. All that has been contributed has been ‘offertory money’ in the truest sense of the word. No expense (beyond printing) has been incurred, and every contribution that has been offered, whether of a hundred pounds or a penny, has I believe been given with a full and grateful heart, as unto God and not as unto men.”

It was indeed a very great cause not only for thankfulness, but for deepened faith and more earnest trust in God, the Giver of all good gifts, that a work which had seemed so completely destroyed should thus, in the short space of four and a half months, without any effort being made on my part, be in a fair way towards re-establishment on a larger scale and on a more sure and permanent basis than before. Truly can we say,

“God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform.”

If only we have faith in God, how much more may be accomplished than we have any idea of. He is _able_ to do for us far more than we can either ask or think.

I feel it only right, at this point, to place it on record, as an encouragement to others who would fain trust simply in God, that the effect on myself of that fire–I cannot call it that disastrous fire–was to draw out fresh faith and trust in my heavenly Father. At that time, when every earthly prop seemed to have given way,–when we suspected incendiarism and knew not whom to trust, and my little daughter was dead, and my wife seemed to be dying, and all things seemed to be against me,–I was enabled in that hour of deep trial to look above, to realize that God was my Father–my good Father–who would not let me want; in my helplessness I just cast myself upon Him, and rested on His strong arm. Before, I had often been anxious and had worried myself about the future, but in this my hour of distress I felt very deeply how insecure are all earthly investments, and that as His servants,–“labour God,” our work not of earth, but of heaven,–the truest happiness was to depend very simply on our heavenly Father for the supply of all our daily needs.

Certainly it was wonderful how the money came in for re-building our burnt Institution. The English fund kept mounting up. First it was L250; that was a little more than a week after the telegram was received, and before any details had arrived. Eighteen days after the fire it was L518; a week later, L550. In four and a half months it had mounted up to L1500; just double the amount we had collected for the first Institution. And all without any great effort being made. It seemed like a fulfilment of the verse, “The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.”

And now we must return to Collingwood.

Spring has come; the Indian grammar and dictionary are completed, and have been sent to Toronto for publication; the ice is moving out of the bay,–the first steamboat preparing to start northward. We bid adieu to our kind friends, and are off once more to Algoma!

On the second morning we pass the Garden River dock. Our poor Institution is gone; and in its place stands a very desolate-looking frame cottage, with only a door in front, and not a single window facing the river. It has been built on the site of the burnt building, and is occupied by Mr. Frost, the Catechist. The poor old church is standing still, scorched on one side. Some of the Indians are waving to us as we pass;–but we are not going to stop there,–the boat goes gliding on, and an hour later we are landed on the Sault Ste. Marie dock. [Footnote: Shortly after this the Rev. P. T. Rowe was appointed by the Bishop missionary to Garden River. It was thought better for many reasons to erect the new Institution at Sault Ste. Marie in preference to Garden River.]

We had engaged a house for the summer, near the river, and here we took up our residence on the 18th day of May. Early the next morning I started off to look for land whereon to build the new Institution. East, west, and north, high and low, land was looked at, but none seemed sufficiently desirable to choose as a site for the new Shingwauk Home; either it was too near the village, or too far away, or too far from the river, or of too high a price. At length, however, the spot was decided on. One sultry evening, almost the last day of May, my wife and myself sauntered down the road along by the bank of the broad Ste. Marie River, a distance of nearly a mile and a half from the village. Here was a little open clearing, while all around was thick, tangled, almost impenetrable bush, but in front was the beautiful sparkling river, a mile and a half in width, and two pretty green islands just in front of us. Cryer, the farm-man, had followed us with a spade, and we got him to turn up the sod in several places that we might see what the soil was like. We decided there and then to make this the site of the Shingwauk Home. The soil indeed was somewhat stony, but the distance from the village was just what we wanted, and the land was cheap (only L1 an acre) and, best of all, it was close to the river, which meant plenty of boating and fishing and swimming for the boys, and skating in winter. We bought ninety acres, but it cost us nothing, as the Municipal Council gave us a bonus of 500 dols. On the 3rd of June (our wedding-day) I selected the spot on which to build, measured it and staked it out, and assisted Cryer to chop out a clearing. The bush was so dense that we could see nothing of the river from where we were working; but after a few days’ labour the clearing was extended to the roadway, and we could then see where we were; we made some big fires, and burnt up the brush-wood as fast as we cut it down. On the 24th June the contract was signed, and excavations for the building were commenced.

The first week of June saw the arrival of Bishop Fauquier to take up his residence at Sault Ste. Marie.

The first week of June also saw the first issue of our little Missionary paper, at that time called the “Algoma Quarterly,” but now the “Algoma Missionary News.”

Missions, Ojibway,

Wilson, Rev. Edward F. Missionary Work Among the Ojebway Indians. London: Society For Promoting Christian Knowledge. 1886.

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